Our Baltic states are on Europe’s new frontline. Nato and Britain must step up

As we celebrate 20 years as Nato members, our countries have never in their history enjoyed stronger collective security – but nor have we faced a more daunting threat. That is the security paradox for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose diplomatic missions in London we head.

We joined the Alliance when the geopolitical sky seemed almost cloudless. We did not see it that way. Our warnings about the latent and growing threat from the East were too easily dismissed in some allied capitals. We knew then just as we know today that only a collective defence can guarantee security in Europe. We lacked this in the 1930s and paid a heavy price; one that Ukrainians are paying now. The torments – deportation, torture, kidnap of children, cultural erasure – that they experience under Russian occupation awaken our own darkest memories and fears.

In these past 20 years we have done a lot to strengthen our own and the alliance’s security. All three Baltic states invest in defence more than Nato’s benchmark of 2% of GDP. We have given the greatest support for Ukraine, relative to our size, of anyone in Nato. We have stood with our allies by proudly sending our sons and daughters to fight alongside Nato members in faraway Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And our allies are standing with us – the Baltic states are hosting British, Canadian, German, American and other troops as part of Nato’s enhanced Forward Presence, a multi-national tripwire force. We are also enthusiastic members of the Joint Expeditionary Force, a UK-led sub-regional security framework for northern Europe. With Finland and now Sweden members of Nato, our home waters, the Baltic Sea, have never been better defended.

Nato has grown stronger, but so have the ambitions of our adversaries. Russia is the greatest threat to Euro-Atlantic security and must therefore not be allowed to win the war in Ukraine. We are determined to support Ukraine until victory.

Alliance leaders at the Vilnius Summit last year stated clearly that Ukraine’s future is in the Nato. We want that as soon as possible, not only to protect our friends from Russian aggression, but also for the sake of all countries in the Euro-Atlantic space. As a battle-hardened ally, Ukraine will be a heavyweight contributor to our security. A clear path for Ukrainian membership must be a priority for the alliance’s 75th anniversary Summit in Washington this summer.

Nato has more to do on other fronts too. We are acutely aware that Russia’s war economy and battle-hardened military can pivot quickly from south to west. We agree with intelligence assessments that a sharp strategic challenge to our defence and deterrence could come in as little as three years or even less. We on the east side of the Baltic Sea have few natural frontiers, and nowhere to retreat to. Even if we are able to deter conventional attack, we face other threats. We already experience asymmetric and hybrid attacks on a daily basis.

An existential challenge, when it comes, may initially seem ambiguous, masked by a blizzard of disinformation and other distractions. In these circumstances, confusion spells defeat. We – and our allies – need therefore to be ready to respond quickly, convincingly and effectively to all kinds of threats. For this reason, we need even speedier decision-making in Nato and other formats. We also need all Nato members to invest in the forces and equipment to make the alliance’s new defence plans a reality.

Russia’s containment policy is not an option – it is a necessity. It is a time for the alliance to be pro-active in creating strategic dilemmas for Russia.

We in the frontline states are raising our game, ready to fight to defend every inch and every soul. Nato must do the same. Nato needs strong leadership, and we need the United Kingdom to be strong in this as well.

This article was originally published by a www.telegraph.co.uk . Read the Original article here. .